How a procurement professional successfully source services
The answer to this question is “yes – you sometimes do have to seduce suppliers when sourcing services.”

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Now, when I say “seduce,” I’m not talking about wearing clothing that exposes more flesh than typically shown in a business environment or splashing yourself with a designer scent or using a cheesy pick up line. I’m talking about giving service suppliers the impression that there is a decent chance of them “getting lucky” (i.e., earning your purchase order).

You see, it is relatively easy to get product suppliers to respond to your RFP. Service suppliers, however, are a bit more skeptical.

While products are often standardized – meaning every customer gets products with the same specifications – services are often customized for each customer. So, pricing products isn’t nearly as labor intensive as working up a quote for services.

Services suppliers sometimes see responding to RFP’s as a lot of work with a small probability of success. Therefore, if they don’t know much about your company or your project, they may be likely to simply ignore any RFP’s that you send their way.

For products, if you send out an RFP to, say, eight product suppliers, there’s a good likelihood that you’ll get six or seven proposals. Send out an RFP to eight service suppliers who you’ve had little to no dialogue with, and you might be lucky to get two or three proposals. And those two proposals may be high priced or from the most desperate suppliers or otherwise suboptimal.

So, how can you prevent a low response rate the next time you source services?

Seduce the prospective suppliers!

Have a conversation with each prospective bidder. And make that conversation more than “Hi, I’m sourcing such-and-such services. Would you like to receive the RFP?”

Tell them the details about your project. Tell them why it would be beneficial to them to earn the order. Tell them what’s great about doing business with your company (e.g., you give testimonials, pay quickly, etc.). Tell them what other services they provide that your company currently buys or may buy in the future. Make the suppliers feel enticed at the prospect of doing business with you.

If you fail to take this little bit of time to seduce the supply base, the day that proposals are due at your office may feel a little bit…lonely.

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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